Author Interview: Multi-published author, Mingmei Yip, Says Sometimes, It Is A Single Word That Brightens A Whole Paragraph

mingmeiOnce again, we welcome author Mingmei Yip to Women’s Fiction Writers. Her novels come from history, culture, and her passion for her subject and for storytelling. That’s a lesson right there! But her advice to aspiring authors really hits home. Tell me if you agree. You’ll also find the trailer for her new novel at the end of the interview, I hope you’ll take a look!

Please welcome Mingmei Yip back to WFW!

Amy xo

“Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph”

mingmeiAmy: Many authors have stories in their heads for years before writing them. Can you share with us when the idea sparked for Secret of a Thousand Beauties? And when did you know that “marriage” to a dead man and Chinese embroidery were integral to your story?

Mingmei: In traditional China, women were and sometimes still are considered men’s possessions and didn’t have much independence or freedom. A Chinese saying goes “The worst thing that can happen to a woman is to marry the wrong man. The worst thing that can happen to a man is to enter the wrong profession.” Unfortunately, because marriages were usually arranged, many women ended up marrying the wrong man at the cost of any chance for happiness. Wary of a bad marriage, some decided to remain single for the rest of their life. These women would join small communities established for non-marrying women. They displayed this choice by tying up the hair in a long pigtail.

Intrigued by these women and their sisterhoods, I decided to write a novel about them. Most worked as maids, but some were more fortunate and could learn a traditional woman’s craft. One of these was embroidery, an art that has always appealed to me, so I decided to write about this small group of embroiderers. They are supposedly celibate, but of course many succumbed to desire.

Ghost marriage was another way women were oppressed in traditional China. Couples were often betrothed in childhood, or even before birth. Since only half of children survived to adulthood, many lost their fiancés. Because they had already pledged marriage, the cruel custom was to marry the woman to the dead man. As a practical matter, this meant she was a slave to her supposed in-laws.

Amy: You feature Chinese history, heritage, and culture in your novels. Has any of this been handed down to you in stories or is it all imagination combined with research?

Mingmei: I have been influenced by both. Growing up before Hong Kong became the modern city it is today, I heard many stories of China in the days of the emperors, especially from my father, who also loved stories. As soon as I was able to read I started to enjoy learning about the ancient times. However, for each of my novels, I spend a lot of time doing research to get the details right.

Amy: Are you a plotter and planner or do you just write and see where the story takes you?

Mingmei: All my stories have twists and turns but I never plot these in advance but let the story develop spontaneously. Therefore, instead of an outline, I let my characters tell me their stories. Once I start to write, the story grows its own feet and walks where it wants to go.

I begin with an engaging situation. For my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, I decided to write about the last Chinese elegant prostitute. For my second novel Petals from the Sky, I had an idea about a would-be nun who falls in love. My third novel, Song of the Silk Road, is the journey to self-discovery of a young woman who travels the ancient Silk Road in search of adventure – and a three million dollar reward. The next two, Skeleton Women and The Nine Fold Heaven, are about femmes fatales and women spies working for gangsters.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring novelists?

It’s never easy to be a writer, especially when you start out. I think to be a writer, it is still essential to master the basics. Not only voice, characterization, dialogue, plot, but also sentence structure, its rhythm and music. I always try to vary the length of my sentences and start each one with a different subject. It’s essential to spent whatever time it takes to find the right word. Sometimes, it is a single word that brightens a whole paragraph.

“There is a Chinese saying ‘Slap on the thigh and exclaim!’ That’s how the readers will react to a good choice of word. Readers may not be aware of the meticulous hard work behind a smooth sentence, but if you don’t pay attention, they will soon become bored.

“I also think it’s good for authors to attend other cultural activities such as movies, concerts, art exhibitions. Have as diverse a background as you can cultivate, that really helps.”

Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her new novel is Secret of a Thousand Beauties, coming out December, 2014 by Kensington Books. Her other novels include: Skeleton Women Femmes Fatales); The Nine Fold Heaven, story of an ex spy and night-club singer undertaking a dangerous journey to look for her long lost lover and son; Peach Blossom Pavilion, story of the last Chinese Geisha; Petals from the Sky — a poignant Buddhist love story about wisdom, compassion, when to persist and when to let go; Song of the Silk Road , an adventure, love story between an older woman and a younger man with a three million award on China’s famous, dangerous route.

Besides writing, Mingmei is accomplished in many other fields. A professional player of the Guqin, Chinese zither, she was recently invited by Carnegie Hall to perform in “A Festival celebrating Chinese Culture” program. She had her solo Goddess exhibition at the New York Open Center Gallery to great acclaim and held calligraphy workshops at the City University of New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has lectured extensively on Chinese art and culture at Oxford University, Columbia University, Beijing University, University of Paris, Vassar College, Williams College.

www.mingmeiyip.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SilkRoadRomance.MingmeiYip

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Mingmeiyip

Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Mingmei-Yip/e/B0037A8RBO

Goodread: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/235532.Mingmei_Yip

Interview: Author Leslie Lehr Says Keep A Movie In Mind When Writing Your Novel To Keep Your Story Moving

WAMKcoverFinalI’m so excited that Leslie Lehr is here with us today at Women’s Fiction Writers! Not only is Leslie sharing how she approached adapting her latest novel into a screenplay (as if that’s not enough), but she gives practical advice on how to keep our stories moving along to make them page turners!

Please welcome Leslie Lehr to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Author Interview: Lindsey Palmer Says To Write About A Passion, Or Better Yet, An Obsession

Pretty in InkLindseyPalmerI know you’re going to love today’s interview with Lindsey Palmer, who brings up something very important: if your book bores you while you’re writing it, STOP! Because then it’s likely to bore someone else. I will add that once you’ve reviewed, revised, edited, and read your book twenty times, it’s okay to be bored and then you’re likely not the best arbiter of what’s boring and what’s not — but when a book is new and being written — follow Lindsey’s advice and write about what interests you most. What pulls you through three hundred pages is likely to also pull along the right reader!

Please welcome Lindsey Palmer to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Lindsey Palmer Says To Write About A Passion, Or Better Yet, An Obsession

Pretty in InkLindseyPalmerAmy: What has the best part been so far, now that you’re a published author? What has the most difficult part been? (I won’t say ‘worst’ but it’s not all easy, that’s for sure!)

Lindsey: The best part is hearing from readers that a certain character or conflict or plot point really connects with them–it’s wonderful to learn that the things that preoccupy and interest me resonate with other people, too. That’s a dream come true.

A more difficult part has been a new sense of pressure. I always considered myself a writer, but before I published a novel, it was something I did in my own little quiet corner of a cafe, a personal project that only a few people close to me knew about. Now, although it’s a thrill to have others think of me as a writer, it’s still a shock when someone casually asks, “What are you writing now?” I bumble a bit, one, because I don’t think I’m especially good at talking about works-in-progress, and two, because something that used to feel private has become more public. I do realize this is a pretty nice problem to have.

Amy: Did you have a favorite scene in the book while you were writing—and can you tell us about it without any spoilers? I also know that some of my favorite scenes when I’m writing are the most difficult to write. Did you have a scene that “gave you trouble?”

Lindsey: One of my favorite parts to write was the chapter narrated from the intern’s point of view. An office intern has such a unique perspective because she’s at the company but not of the company–she’s got more than a visitor’s pass, but she’s temporary, too, trying out this career to see if it fits. She may be naive about a lot of the inner workings of the office, but the fact that she’s less entrenched affords her a totally fresh viewpoint, which from a writer’s perspective was fun to inhabit after taking on the points-of-view of so many longtime staffers. Also, one might say that the intern in Pretty in Ink has more of a heart than the other characters, and yet she also commits what is arguably the least ethical act of the novel. For these reasons, she was an interesting character to develop.

One scene that gave me trouble was when the managing editor goes out to drinks with the new editor-in-chief, Mimi. Mimi has been cast as a villain up until this point, but I wanted to find a way to make her empathetic, to complicate her character a bit. I started thinking about how, despite her position of power, a new boss would face her own difficulties, in Mimi’s case insecurity and loneliness. What better way to get them out in the open than to get the character a little drunk? It was a challenge to write, but a fun one.

Amy: How do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction’ and having your novel categorized as one that would appeal mostly to women?

Lindsey: Well, since Pretty in Ink is about a cast of primarily women and an exploration of issues and struggles that are often unique to women, it makes perfect sense to me that the book would be categorized as “women’s fiction.” Does that necessarily mean that a man wouldn’t read it and find a character or situation that resonates or interests? I would hope not. Categorization can be helpful when it comes to connecting with readers who know they like a certain genre–I’m all for that. Categorization only becomes problematic when it’s seen as exclusionary, as in, This book is X type so it would only appeal to Y readers. But really, I’m like most writers in that the main goal is to get eyeballs in front of my work, so whatever means can help make that happen is okay by me.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Lindsey: First, read a lot–you have to keep filling your brain with writing that sings in order to be able to craft your own powerful prose. Second, write about a passion or, even better, an obsession. Especially if your goal is to write a novel, you’re going to be living with those characters and that set of conflicts and issues for quite some time, and at least for me, the best way to keep motivated and interested is to be writing about something that presents endless enthrallment. If you get bored, your reader certainly will too. If you’re still fascinated by the end of the process, then hopefully readers will be too.

LindseyPalmerLindsey J. Palmer worked as a professional writer and editor in the magazine industry for seven years, most recently as Features Editor at Self, and previously at Redbook and Glamour. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she earned a Master of Arts in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently teaches 12th grade English, A.P. Literature, and Creative Writing at NEST+m in Manhattan. Lindsey lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at http://www.lindseyjpalmer.com, http://facebook.com/lindseyjpalmerauthor, and @lindseyjpalmer.

Author Interview: Dreams And Destiny Intertwine In Lydia Netzer’s Latest Novel

toledocoversidebarI am so honored to have Lydia Netzer on WFW again. Lydia is one of the most courageous and creative novelists I know. She’s generous with her advice and her insights, and never fails to same something worth listening to—and repeating. I wanted this interview with Lydia to be a little different, just to do a mid-summer shake-up! Below, Lydia shares with us not only the the origin of her latest book, HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY, but how she involved dream research in the writing, and what it all means to her.

Please welcome my dear friend Lydia Netzer to WFW!

Amy xo

How exciting! Here’s an addition to our post today—an audio clip from

HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY, available on Macmillan Audio.

Just click:

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Author Interview: Ellen Sussman Says There’s More Than One Way To Write A Novel (Even For Her!)

cover  Fleur right side upYou know what they say, timing is everything! And what good timing it is for us to have Ellen Sussman on Women’s Fiction Writers today to celebrate the launch of her latest novel, A WEDDING IN PROVENCE. Ellen shares exceptional insight and advice with us, perhaps no words better suited to me than these: “Write the best damn book you can.” It seem obvious, but can become an oversight when we get wrapped up in other parts of being a writer and author. So, thanks, Ellen. Simple words are often the most meaningful. And the smartest.

Please welcome Ellen Sussman back to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

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Author Interview: Natalia Sylvester Says Always Be Willing To Listen, Learn, And Grow As A Writer

ChasingtheSun_RevisedFinalFrontCover_jpegHappy July, friends! To kick off the month I’m excited to introduce Natalia Sylvester, whom I feel like I’ve known forever! Below, Natalia shares with us a wide range of wonderful thoughts—from her journey to publication, how the novel has impacted her family connections, what it’s like to write a novel set in another country. Natalia’s advice for writers is priceless: don’t forget to keep learning while you’re striving. Be willing. That’s the key. What an important reminder.

Please welcome Natalia Sylvester to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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Author Interview: Kellie Coates Gilbert Juggles Writing, Life, And A New Novel With Finesse, Wisdom, And Humor

A-Woman-of-FortuneMy friend, author Kellie Coates Gilbert, is here today to share with us her new novel, her theories on women’s fiction, and how she manages a full writing life and a full life in general and how she does it all so well.

Please welcome Kellie Coates Gilbert to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

 

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